When challenges become challenging

Posted by Iannucci | 3/03/2008 | 34 comments »
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“I feel like this is something that is a new and unique challenge for me.” - Sam Hornish Jr (11/8/07)

For those of you who have been wishing the worst towards the former IndyCar champions who prefer to drive sedans, your wishes are being granted.

A quick check of the N-Word Sprint-phones-not-Sprint-cars Cup standings show that both Mr Hornish and Mr Franchitti (and pretty much every other recent open-wheel defector not named “Montoya”) are sitting currently outside of the Top 35, which means they have very little time remaining to demonstrate they are indeed of the 35 greatest stock car racers on the planet.

36. Dario Franchitti
38. Sam Hornish Jr
46. Patrick Carpentier
48. AJ Allmendinger
54. Jacques Villeneuve

The next two weeks feature races involving the (relatively) high speeds in Atlanta and the (decidedly) low speeds of Bristol, and should either Dario or Sam not improve their fortunes enough in this timespan they will no longer be guaranteed a starting spot at any given event. That means they would have to try to qualify the old-fashioned way – on speed – and lest we forget Sam ran up quite the streak of unqualifiability while attempting to make it in on speed in the tin tops last season.

Yes, I just made up the word “unqualifiability”. Desperate times demand desperate language. But hey, it's certainly a challenge!


  1. Tabernerus // March 03, 2008 10:40 AM  

    Keep in mind that Sam's qualifying times last year were generally well within the top 35 times at the given event, but due to NASCAR's franchis ... I mean Top-35 qualifying rule, he had trouble making races. Allmendinger is facing a similar problem, but he didn't have a teammate with owner points to spare. Incidentally, I say Allmendinger gets a ride this year at Indy. If he doesn't start making races, he's going to have trouble making the Coca-Cola 600, leading to an interesting gamble. Does he try to qualify for Indy BEFORE knowing his fate in the 600, on the assumption that he's a long-shot to make the latter field, or does he focus on making the 600, since it's ostensibly his job (for now)? I say Allmendinger is in an IndyCar ride full-time by mid-2009.

  2. Edmund // March 03, 2008 10:42 AM  

    But note that Sammy has already earned 43% of what he earned in all of last season. I think I'm gonna be sick.

  3. Johnny // March 03, 2008 10:46 AM  

    The AJ to Indy thing is a little far fetched. Toyota and Red Bull aren't going to have him wasting a month fooling around with a one shot deal.

    In fact it looks like Jayski is reporting AJ is likely to get an extended tour of the Truck and Nationwide Series here shortly.

  4. Tabernerus // March 03, 2008 10:53 AM  

    Isn't Red Bull the primary sponsor for (P)KV Racing? If so, and if he hasn't picked it up a bit after a few Nationwide and Truck races, then one has to consider ...

    And Scott Speed will be in a Truck this weekend, I think. If he moves up quickly, I don't think Red Bull Toyota is ready to add a third car.

  5. Johnny // March 03, 2008 11:26 AM  

    Scott won't move up quickly. The Red Bull contracts are super long term and geared for that. Also the Toyota Red Bull thing AJ is in is completely different than KV or Minardi's Red Bull deals. The only similarity is who is cutting the checks. AJ won't be released from Red Bull NASCAR to drive a competitor's product for a month to (possibly) just make one race. He could get 4-6 Truck/Nationwide appearances in the same time.

  6. Tabernerus // March 03, 2008 11:48 AM  

    But there's gotta be a limit on how long Red Bull will trot him out to qualify and watch him not make the race. So is Speed just getting what amounts to a test in the truck this weekend? And how do the Red Bull stable deals work? Do the drivers have an out, if the deals are much longer term?

  7. Jeff Iannucci // March 03, 2008 12:06 PM  

    Perhaps this link would further the discussion.

  8. megan from indy // March 03, 2008 2:23 PM  

    Oh no, wait a minute here, our best drivers from open wheel are rookies in stock cars. Montoya went through this! You can't expect to much too soon.

    Dario finished 6th in the Nationwide race and Carpentier 8th.

    They're far from failing. What is it 40 races before a driver wins!?

  9. faniqeric // March 03, 2008 2:56 PM  


    The problem is from what I know and have observed of N-word fans, they won't see it that way, especially when they've been programmed to hate the "darn furnniers."

    I've said all along we're in a lose-lose situation. Success means the exodus continues. Failure means 95% of the country thinks our drivers are all bums.

  10. faniqeric // March 03, 2008 2:56 PM  


    The problem is from what I know and have observed of N-word fans, they won't see it that way, especially when they've been programmed to hate the "darn furnniers."

    I've said all along we're in a lose-lose situation. Success means the exodus continues. Failure means 95% of the country thinks our drivers are all bums.

  11. mmack // March 03, 2008 3:11 PM  


    It is not an issue of failing to win races, it is an issue of failing to qualify for races. Patreeek, Day-ree-oh, and Silent Sam are in the unenvious position of coming very close to falling out of the NASCAR Welfare Program, which saves spots for the Top 35 in points, no matter how slow you are. :^/ If you are a past N-word champion, you can get a free mulligan as well.

    In all three cases, these drivers are only safe for the first five races of the season, skating in on the owner's points for their car from 2007. After the next two races if they are outside of the Top 35, they have to earn their way into the field on speed, fighting for eight spots if no former champions drop a "Past-Champion Provisional" on the table to make the field.

    However, I believe the N-word series will soon institute further changes to the "Past-Champion Provisional" to allow former Indianapolis 500 winners to automatically make starting fields, so DW and his merry band of Fox Friends can keep trying to claim the Tyson Chicken Farms Five-Hunnert on Fox has more Indy Five-Hunnert winners than the real Indy Five-Hunnert. :^P

    "Boogity-Boogity-Boogity, GIT RACIN' FASTER, BOYS!"

  12. mmack // March 03, 2008 3:23 PM  


    I'll split the difference between you and tabernerus and say that I agree with you that Wallmendinger won't run the Indy 500 in 2008, but agree with tabernerus that it appears AJ is on very thin ice for the rest of 2008. If Red Bull finds a veteran who can qualify the #84 AND bring it home in a top 10 finishing position, IMO AJ will have some free time on his hands come 2009.

    I've got a really bad feeling that Red Bull is learning what NOT to do in the N-Word via AJ. I'm afraid that he's the test case for Scott Speed, and they'll take the proper amount of time to get Scott ready for the top levels of the N-word series.

  13. pressdog // March 03, 2008 3:45 PM  

    AJ is lurking back there, biding his time, waiting for his moment to STRIKE, like a cobra .. from 48th place. He's a top 40 driver, make no mistake. This has to be waaaaaaaay better than challenging for a win in a street race in an open-wheel car.

  14. Tabernerus // March 03, 2008 3:49 PM  


    That depends greatly upon his paycheck - like, the fact that get gets one, now.

  15. Megan from Indy // March 03, 2008 4:46 PM  

    No they wont, especially when you state the facts and vocalize it to them. I get on Topix and have showed them the facts and they're getting it. It's easy to say something but when confronted with the truth the opinion transforms. It may take a minute but with the hell I went through with Juan last year and the Nascar fans it was well worth letting them know the deal. Now they say oh Juan isn't so bad, of course I knew this all along. NO one should think in 3 races that's what the drivers potential is. It doesn't work that way and you simply have to remind them, over and over again and use facts!

  16. megan from Indy // March 03, 2008 4:52 PM  

    A couple other things to note. Carpentier qualified this last race on speed. Hornish has always had the speed. To get in the race owner points are stupid to me, I agree with that. They can qualify they have the speed, with the exception of Franchitti but that's a Ganassi issue. Like I said when I hear that kind of talk I pull out the facts and the facts are they're learning faster then a normal rookie. I think they should all of had to go to Nationwide to gain experience. I'm rooting for them there as well as in open wheel afterall they're still the same drivers and it's great when they beat the VETERANS in Nascar. It's a long season but I have faith in them.

    Allmendinger has always been overated to me.

  17. SS Minnow // March 03, 2008 10:10 PM  

    Just a hunch, and not exactly related, but I bet that Robby G. will not race INDY this year. First, his threat to leave NASSCAB will certainly not be taken lightly by the powers that be considering where he would like to race on Memorial Day should the penalty go through. Also, I just read this article about Rusty's team being let off the hook for an infraction at Daytona in his NWIDE car.


    I really believe this is NASSCAB's way of setting some precedent- albeit very loose- thus allowing the penalty to be overturned. It just gives way for them to keep Robby from "defecting" and possibly exposing how flawed their "entertainment" system really is. Not sure about all of you, but I would'nt mind to see some of those guys race at INDY.

    Well, on second thought, maybe I do mind. Would it be seen as NASSCAB's drivers being better than the stable of OW racers should they make the Field of 33? Man, I'm really conflicted.

  18. faniqeric // March 03, 2008 10:40 PM  

    In happier news, my 500 tickets came in the mail today!

  19. Dale Nixon // March 03, 2008 10:45 PM  

    AJ's updated quote on Jayski:

    "But, I know Skinner can help both me and my team. All I can say is he better be prepared for me to eat, drink, and sleep with him."

    One can only hope ol' Dinger is referring to B.F. Skinner, the behavioral psychologist; and not Mike Skinner the furry-faced good ol'boy.

  20. Anonymous // March 04, 2008 12:26 AM  

    Is “unqualifiability” a George W. Bush Word ??

    I'd be suprised if he hasn't used it yet.

    "For those of you who have been wishing the worst towards the former IndyCar champions who prefer to drive sedans, your wishes are being granted."

    I am one of those people and proud of it.

    when they fail to succeed to in NAPCAR they will see the mistake they made.

    I would love to have AJ and his very stunning wife in the IndyCar Series.

    and Robby Gordon SHOULD but probably won't carry out his threat.

    Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish Jr,Patrick Carpentier, Jack Newtown; I don't care if they ever come back.

    They have said some very negative comments about IndyCar and thats something hard to overlook.

  21. mmack // March 04, 2008 7:11 AM  


    One thing that's easier for Hornish, Carpentier, Franchitti et. al. is that there are LESS cars showing up for races. Las Vegas had 47 cars attempt to qualify for the 43 spots, versus 53 cars trying last year. If the trend continues it should make no difference to our trio of rookie ex open wheelers, but if more cars start appearing later in the season (some teams may be "cherry-picking" the bigger races due to financial constraints), or struggling teams start looking at available veterans to put their car in the field (See Allmendinger, Red Bull #84) it would be EXTRA nice to have a guaranteed Top-35 spot in the field. Remember too, if all three do earn enough points to get into the top 35 at the end of this year, they're locked into the 2009 Daytona 500, where there are usually more than 47 cars trying to make the field. Miss that race and you're already in the hole for '09, and perhaps on the bubble for your job. Just ask AJ ;^)

    I agree with you on the Top-35 points deal (It's stupid, no better than our late and unlamented 25/8), and with AJ. I think he's in over his head in the N-Word series, perhaps due to being moved up too quickly. It does take a different skill set to drive a stock car versus an open wheel car and be competitive, and it's a rare driver, male or female, who can just jump behind the wheel and be competitive in any type of car, much less win.

  22. Tabernerus // March 04, 2008 7:54 AM  

    I guess I just feel like AJ hasn't performed terribly when he's made the race - not great, but not terribly. He also has posted qualifying times that are consistently in the fastest 43 times, yet fails to make races because of owner points. Moving his to a Nationwide ride is probably the best bet for now, or better yet a Truck - I think the Truck series will be the best testbed for Cup drivers now, with the new car being much boxier than the Nationwide cars. That said, if he's running somewhere between 15th and 25th in one of those series, and whoever takes over the 84 can put it in the field consistently, then one has to wonder whether or not Red Bull Toyota will keep him around. Vickers is a young guy with a stock car background, who has shown promise. Scott Speed will take a slower path to the show, and hopefully be better for it. I don't think they want to add a third car anytime soon, unless it's an older veteran who can mentor their younger drivers. I really do think AJ is looking for work in 2009.

  23. Johnny // March 04, 2008 8:13 AM  

    As the resident "N word" guy (I'd prefer it be "stock car, because I do a ton of stuff with Late Models) I'd just like to second the above posts, they both make the most sense given the facts on the ground.

    AJ will continue to be paid by Red Bull, but will also have to do as he's told. Even should Red Bull get interested in Indy Car sometime in the future, he's not a sure bet, because he lacks OVAL experience, not necessarily just tin top experience. I think the pressure's really on him because Vickers is totally outperforming him with the same equipment every single weekend, and that Toyota package is just so much better this year, he should at least be qualifying. Scott Speed is a separate deal and unless he shows some personal maturity he'll likely be relegated back to go karts within a year if he can't start turning it around.

    As for the whole open wheelers in N car thing, the story played out just like Miller said it would. They got big checks for back of the pack rides. JPM has looked alright on road courses, but he essentially was gifted with a win that should have been Robby Gordon's last year. What has he done beyond that? Sam looks OK but is in good equipment but not to its level yet and poor ol' Dario is barely pulling laps, although he is funny in pit interviews. Until one of the open wheel contingent get a ride in a top shelf N Car, be it Gibbs, Hendrick, Roush, or GEM (let's see how Penske does all year), they're never going to seriously challenge the series regulars regardless of individual talent.

  24. mmack // March 04, 2008 9:04 AM  


    What's your take on the latest nasty rumor\gossip from Frontstretch.com today:

    But the more troubling sign for Allmendinger is the team’s sudden investment in fellow open wheeler and former rival Scott Speed. Speed is scheduled to run two Truck Series races with the No. 46 team, and solid performances there could turn that into a full-time development deal. Curiously, Red Bull continues to funnel its resources in areas they never did for the driver they just “replaced;” and with Allmendinger being sent back into the same series, there’s a chance the two are about to begin a “knockout” competition to take over the No. 84 car full-time for 2009. In the past, Red Bull has said they’d like to keep both on the roster, but they appear hardly ready to expand to a three-car team — common sense tells you they can’t absorb another nightmare expansion like they had in 2007. If they were, Allmendinger would be busy taking his knocks in Cup this weekend at Atlanta.

    This may be 180 degrees off base, but from the outside it does look a little bit like a race-off for a seat.

    I'd rather have AJ than Scott in the car, since I can't fathom how Speed can get into a stocker with that swelled head of his.

  25. Johnny // March 04, 2008 9:53 AM  


    That story is plausible but I still don't believe it to be true. Mateschitz definitely has a thing for Scott Speed and seems willing to fund him at whatever he wants to do, but Speed may have hit a wall with NASCAR. His attitude just won't make it as it stands. Now if he matures and shows some results, it might happen, but not at present. Also RB NASCAR and Toyota already have a big investment in Allmendinger to just throw him out, at least yet and while he's still in NASCAR's good graces.

  26. Tabernerus // March 04, 2008 9:59 AM  

    I think I missed something - what's the deal with Scott Speed's attitude? I know he had a falling out with STR's management, but I didn't realize there was a larger pattern? What's the deal?

  27. Johnny // March 04, 2008 10:13 AM  

    Scott Speed first irked STR by having his head totally turned by the whole Euro F1 "party" lifestyle and he didn't apply a whole lot of maturity into what he was doing at the track, which spilled over into the unrest at his team last year.

    Trying to maintain as journalistic an attitude as I can, I've dealt with Mr. Speed twice, once at an event affiliated with a charity, and both times his attitude, appearance, punctuality, and over all demeanor towards everyone left much to be desired, and I objectively can say unless improved, he will be done. Sponsors and series are clawing for fan dollars right now, and a bad 'tude and lofty sense of self entitlement aren't going to cut it with anybody I know of.

  28. Tabernerus // March 04, 2008 10:23 AM  

    Ah, gotcha, thanks. Yeah, I didn't see much of that, likely because F1 coverage in the States is ... well ... yeah.

    I still say Speed, Allmendinger, and Hornish all belong in Indycars.

    Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne do, too, but that's a whole other argument. :-)

  29. Wedge McWedgy (SandWedge) // March 04, 2008 10:48 AM  

    just for the sake of it, how come no one talks about getting J.J. Yelly & Casey Mears back?

  30. Johnny // March 04, 2008 10:52 AM  


    Well somebody would have to want them to come back first.

  31. Tabernerus // March 04, 2008 11:42 AM  

    In the case of Yeley and Mears, not a bad point, though I don't think Mears is looking to give up a Hendrick ride any time soon, unless it's not by his choice.

    Yeley's an interesting guy, though if there's more road-racing in the merged series, well ... yeah.

    Colin Braun is a much more compelling candidate, given his road-racing experience and relative youth.

  32. Johnny // March 04, 2008 11:46 AM  

    Right. You may see IndyCar be the place talented racers are either before or after their debt-resolving N Car paydays.

  33. Wedge McWedgy (SandWedge) // March 04, 2008 2:24 PM  

    my point was more of asking why people/media act as if there is suddenly! a panic movement of open-wheel guys to NASCAR with Sam, Dario, Dinger and Carpentier, (especially considering that Sam and Dario were the only ones to actually make the switch last year.)

    Tony Stewart made the change though most NASCAR fans don't realize it, same with Mears and Yelly and Gordon and others I'm not thinking of off the top of my head. obviously Mears isn't making the move back soon, yet you can't find any open-wheel fans hammering them for making "the move"... (nor can you find any fan that realizes Dario said himself he chose NASCAR over retirement not over ICS)

    And if all goes well and he gets to ICS sooner than later it will be the same with no one remembering Brent Sherman as coming from NASCAR, the only reason people are blowing it up right now is because Sam and Dario are the most recent series and 500 winners so it makes a news story juicier.

  34. Johnny // March 04, 2008 7:39 PM  

    The big media thing came because it was a boring chase and because Sam and Dario left at the top of their game, even if Dario was going to retire to sports cars, he was still the I500 AND IRL Champ. That's pretty big news when 2 of the biggest stars walk away.

    As for Yaley and Mears, neither contributed that much to open wheel, even with Robin Miller hyping Yaley at every possible place due to his USAC tie in.

    And most NASCAR fans DO realize J. Gordon and Stewart came from open wheel and they brag about it. J. Gordon knocked on a whole lot of unfriendly doors before he landed in NASCAR and Tony got pissed with the state of things. To them the better racers naturally came over to their series, and Sam and Dario were just a further evolution of that. As much as some may dislike it, or view it as arrogant, that is the N word fans' worldview.